Last week on March 26th, the Washington State House Environment and Energy Committee voted in support of the Solar Fairness Act (E2SSB 5223). The bill has since moved to the House Rules Committee to be scheduled for a full vote on the House floor in the coming weeks. It passed out of the Senate last month with bipartisan support and is maintaining good momentum on the House side. Once it receives a vote on the House floor, it will head back to the Senate for "concurrence" if it passes off the House floor with a majority.
The Solar Fairness Act provides a simple administrative update to a proven policy at no cost to the state. Net metering protects solar owners’ right to use the electricity they make over the course of the year. Updating the law to allow more Washingtonians access to solar is vital to achieving our state's renewable energy goals. Net metering also supports thousands of clean energy jobs and has helped leveraged more than $1.27 billion in private investment in Washington according to Western Washington University's Center of Economic and Business Research.
Thanks to solar advocates in communities around the state, The Solar Fairness Act (5223) has passed out of the Washington State Senate with bipartisan support. The Senate vote is a key milestone that signals the right of solar adopters to receive full credit on their utility bills (via net metering) for the power they generate on their homes and businesses. The Solar Fairness Act will provide more certainty for customers, utilities, and the solar industry about the state’s commitment to local, clean energy.
Bill sponsors Senator Palumbo (D) and Senator Rivers (R) recognized the urgent need to update net metering law to help solar energy in Washington continue to grow and thrive. The legislation now proceeds to committee hearings on the House side of the Legislature, beginning with the House Committee on Environment & Energy next week.
After successful committee hearings, the Solar Fairness Act is advancing to the floor of the Washington State Senate, where legislators will soon vote on the bill. The legislation provides a crucial update to net metering, the core policy driving solar deployment in Washington. It protects the investment of home- and business-owners who have already adopted clean energy, and preserves the option for new investment in solar.
Washington utilities are in legislative limbo, as many have surpassed the current statutory net metering threshold and lack further policy direction from the state. By raising the minimum net metering requirement 8-fold from its outdated 1996 benchmark, the Solar Fairness Act provides greater certainty for customers, utilities, and the solar industry about the state’s commitment to smart, local, clean energy.
Washington reported 18 percent solar job growth in 2018 according to the Solar Foundation’s February release of its ninth annual National Solar Jobs Census. The state was one of 29 to experience job growth last year despite a 3 percent decline in solar jobs nationally. Overall, solar employment has grown 159 percent since the first Census in 2010, for a current total of about 242,000 solar jobs across all 50 states.
Solar job growth in Washington represents at least 600 new jobs, resulting in more than 4,000 solar jobs state-wide. The report ranks Washington among the top twenty states for solar employment. In addition, the ratio of solar workers to the overall Washington workforce grew in 2018 over the prior year, reflecting the solar industry’s growing importance in the state’s economy.
Analysis by Solar Installers of Washington shows that much of the 2018 job growth was driven by the state’s passage of the 2017 Solar Jobs Bill, which provided incentive reform for investment in residential, commercial, community, and utility-scale projects. The popularity of the program resulted in deployment of more than 106 megawatts of solar, stimulating more than $1.2 billion dollars in private investment in solar installation and manufacturing. Depletion of those incentives in January, however, despite what was intended to be a multi-year incentive program, is now expected to constrain solar investment and job growth in Washington for 2019.
Washington’s ambitious clean energy goals require a skilled and stable solar workforce. The job census results for Washington illustrate the effectiveness of state incentives in stimulating renewable energy markets, but also underscore the importance of designing policies that support sustainable growth and provide certainty over the long-term.
The Solar Fairness Act (SB 5223) was introduced to the Washington State Legislature today. The bill, sponsored by Senator Guy Palumbo and twenty-two other democratic and republican senators, would provide an urgent update to net metering law, which has driven installation of more than 75% of Washington’s solar capacity. Net metering ensures that solar owners can use the power they make, earning full bill credits for their electricity.
More than 90 percent of Washington voters live in the eighteen utility districts that have surpassed Washington’s outdated net metering threshold, which is among the lowest standards in the nation. Doors could shut at any time for new solar customers in those districts, and existing customers’ net metering contracts could change. In the absence of legislative direction, at least four utilities have already undermined net metering.
Net metering is a successful policy worth building on. Washington’s 18,000 net-metered systems on homes, businesses, and non-profits have generated more than $460 million in private investment, plus 4,000 family-wage jobs, and growing. Washingtonians should have the right to own and use all of the power they generate on their property. Updating the law to allow more Washingtonians access to solar is vital for our state to achieve our renewable energy goals.
Solar Installers of Washington is pleased to announce the addition of three new members to the Board of Directors: Gavin Tenold of Northwest Renewables, Troy Woody of Hot Solar Solutions, and Shannon Ellis-Brock of Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union. The board provides leadership for promoting the widespread deployment of solar throughout the state. Changes approved by SIW’s membership this fall extended to all members pursuing solar as a commercial venture in Washington the opportunity to serve on the board. The new members will serve alongside Dana Brandt, Alana Nelson, Jeff Greear, Markus Virta, and Bonnie Frye Hemphill, who continue their board terms in 2019.
Shannon Ellis-Brock joined Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union in 2008, where she serves as Chief Operating Officer. In 2009 she started an energy-efficiency lending program at the credit union. Through partnerships with local installers, she has expanded the credit union’s loan program to include solar, helping thousands of Washingtonians become solar citizens. In her quest to save the planet, she has continued to grow the loan programs through grants, and by building long-term relationships.
Gavin Tenold co-founded Northwest Renewables in Spokane in 2016, leveraging his experience in the design, detailing, and construction of Net-Zero Passive Houses. Prior to his service to SIW, Gavin helped disabled and low-income homeowners access property upgrades as a board member of Rebuilding Together Spokane. Gavin is a member of the grassroots Climate Collaborative, working to solve regional climate resiliency issues. He represented the solar industry as part of the 2018 City of Spokane delegation to Scandinavia to exchange ideas in renewable energy best practice.
Troy Woody used his finance and customer service experience, gained from more than 20 years in the hotel business, to found Hot Solar Solutions, based in Kennewick. Troy has served his community through membership on many boards including the Pasco Chamber of Commerce, Tri-City Visitor and Convention Bureau, Columbia School District board, and the Sunrise Rotary Board.
“I am excited to welcome Shannon, Gavin, and Troy,” says Allison Arnold, Executive Director. “Each of them brings to SIW leadership experience, deep knowledge of solar, and a vision for a robust and growing solar market in Washington.”
The association would also like to thank outgoing board members Jeremy Smithson and Melissa Metcalfe for their leadership and dedicated service to Solar Installers of Washington.
A study released today by Solar Installers of Washington (SIW) shows that November passage of the clean energy investment ballot measure, Initiative 1631, could dramatically accelerate growth of the residential, commercial, and community solar markets in Washington State. Seventy percent of the pollution fees collected under the new law would be directed toward a Clean Air Clean Energy (CACE) Fund. The study shows that injecting 10-20% of CACE funds into a program roughly modeled on the state’s existing Renewable Energy System Incentive Program could deploy more than four gigawatts of distributed solar generating capacity, a thirty-fold increase over current installed solar capacity, equivalent to more than 400,000 typical rooftop systems.
Under the scenarios studied, solar industry growth could add well over 3,000 jobs beyond the 3,400 existing today, signaling the need for substantial investment in renewable energy workforce development. By 2050 new solar incentives deployed with CACE funds could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 32 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Initiative 1631 would level the playing field for renewable energy by making large corporate polluters pay for their emissions, and by re-investing those funds in clean energy projects that protect our air and water.
Learn more about the Distributed Solar Energy Potential of I-1631.
North American solar module manufacturer, Silfab Solar, has announced a direct investment in Itek Energy to initiate its US operations and meet growing demand for its photovoltaic (PV) products. With the $40 million investment, Silfab will integrate its leading-edge technology to Itek’s Bellingham, Washington production facility. Addition of a second production line at the facility is expected to more than double solar module production from 150 megawatts to near 350 megawatts.
The Silfab announcement comes as Washington state is charting record installation numbers of residential and commercial solar PV systems. The market expansion is fueled by falling equipment production costs, increased consumer awareness, net metering, and the reformed Renewable Energy System Incentive Program. The incentive program, passed by Washington’s legislature last summer, pays renewable energy adopters for the clean energy their systems generate.
“The out-of-state investment Washington’s solar industry has attracted from Silfab Solar underscores the value of Washington lawmakers’ decisions to support solar energy innovation and deployment. Funds the state has invested in solar energy are leveraging substantial private investment throughout Washington’s solar value chain,” said Dana Brandt, Board President of Solar Installers of Washington, the state’s solar trade association.
“We are excited by the expanded solar module production capabilities the Silfab investment makes possible at the Washington factory. The investment will help meet the strong demand for clean, affordable, and reliable solar electricity here in Washington state and in export markets,” said John Flanagan, President and Founding Principal of Itek.
The Yes on I-1631 campaign and Washington’s solar industry are celebrating a milestone. This week Washington’s Secretary of State announced that Initiative 1631 has qualified for the ballot in the November 2018 election. The initiative would protect local health and build a cleaner future for Washington by putting a pollution fee on the state's largest polluters, like the oil industry and utilities that have not yet switched to clean energy. It would invest in clean energy infrastructure, protecting and improving our state’s clean water and healthy forests, and transitioning local communities to a clean energy economy.
Yes on 1631 volunteers and coalition leaders delivered roughly 375,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Election Office last month. 260,000 verified signatures are required to qualify for the General Election Ballot. More than 2000 volunteers, organized through more than 200 organizations across Washington, worked over 12 weeks to gather signatures for this initiative.
Initiative 1631 is supported by the broadest coalition in Washington state initiative history, including labor unions, health professionals, businesses, communities of color organizations, tribal nations, faith organizations and environmental and clean energy advocates. The Solar Installers of Washington has endorsed the initiative, as have many of its member companies.
“Passage of I-1631 would dramatically accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in Washington. Funds generated by the carbon fee would support a multi-fold increase in solar installations and create thousands of new local jobs in the solar industry,” said Allison Arnold, Executive Director of Solar Installers of Washington.
Solar Installers of Washington endorses Washington Ballot Initiative 1631, the Protect Washington Act. If passed in November, the Act would reduce pollution by investing in clean air, clean energy, such as wind and solar, clean water, healthy forests, and healthy communities. Investments would be funded by imposing a fee on large emitters based on their pollution related to the consumption of fossil fuels.
We support this pivotal effort to make Washington the first state in the U.S. to establish a carbon fee and investment fund to address climate change. The adverse impacts of carbon emissions on our health, water, forests, fisheries, agriculture, and infrastructure are intensifying with each year, threatening the well-being of current and future generations.
Solar and other renewable and efficient energy technologies are poised to replace the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity generation. The transition to a clean energy economy will have tremendous economic and job growth benefits. If Initiative 1631 becomes law, SIW will work with the State and stakeholders to build effective programs for the equitable deployment of solar energy, and to provide career opportunities for workers displaced during the shift to clean energy.
Please sign in support of Initiative 1631 and vote "yes" on the initiative this November.
To learn more about the initiative visit https://yeson1631.org/learn/